WASHINGTON – As the Israel-Hamas war rages on for its fifth day, the Biden Administration reaffirmed its “unwavering support for Israel” and discussed American casualties from the attack at Wednesday’s press briefing.
American Intelligence is aware of 22 Americans killed and 17 unaccounted for, with “less than a handful” of those missing in a potential hostage situation, John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Wednesday. It is likely these numbers will rise, he said.
“In these early hours, we don’t know where they are,” he said. “We don’t know if they’re all in one group, broken up into several groups. We don’t know if they’re being moved and to what frequency and to what locations.”
Surprise attacks on Saturday by Hamas near the Israel-Gaza border claimed more than 1,200 Israeli lives and took as many as 150 hostages. Since the attack, Israeli air strikes have killed at least 1,055 people in the Gaza Strip, including at least 326 children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Kirby told reporters that the first tranche of additional U.S. military aid in Israel has arrived, and it will continue to come – although future military funding for both Ukraine and Israel aid will eventually need to be authorized by Congress.
So far, the military aid has included more ammunition and fighter jets, and part of the U.S. carrier fleet has been relocated to the eastern Mediterranean. Kirby said the U.S.’s maritime presence is intended to deter hostile groups toward Israel from attempting to widen the sphere of the conflict.
Despite speculation, Kirby said there continues to be no specific evidence of the Iran regime’s involvement, planning, or resourcing in this set of attacks on Israel.
While military support for Israel arrives, the humanitarian effects on civilians from the air strikes have become a growing worldwide concern.
Because Israel is in control of the Gaza Strip’s borders, Palestinians have no way of leaving the region, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Israel has halted water, electricity, fuel, and food supplies to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday that depriving civilians of essential goods “is prohibited under international humanitarian law.”
Though Kirby said the U.S. supports safe passage for civilians and has discussed it with Israel and Egypt, he did not provide clear details about whether it is a likely solution.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday night again reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to back Israel. He said defending Israel is a matter of protecting the Jewish population across the world.
“There are moments in this life when pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on the world,” Biden said during remarks at the White House at a roundtable with Jewish community leaders. “The people of Israel lived through one such moment this weekend.”